Sunday, February 24, 2013

Jerry Brown at the National Governors Association

California Gov. Jerry Brown was in Washington over the weekend for a meeting of the National Governors' Association. David Siders reports for the Sacramento Bee (Jerry Brown presses Washington for 'broad authority' on health care 02/23/2013) that during his time there he lobbied the Obama Administration for "broad authority" for the State of California to control costs as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) proceeds.

I have argued during Jerry's first two years of this term as Governor that he framed the cuts he sought to balance the state budget as necessary but not virtuous in themselves. I recall once someone asking him about an unpopular cut for senior programs, and he responded, "it's all bad." Unlike President Obama, who has adopted the Republican framework of reducing the deficit as the overarching context of his economic policies, Jerry successfully sought tax increases in a statewide vote in 2012 with a straightforward description of the cuts that would be necessary without them. He reversed, at least for the moment, the Grover Norquist drown-the-baby-in-the-bathwater approach to cutting government services by continually restricting tax resources.

In doing so, Jerry did not conform to the neoliberal model for Democrats, the one that Obama is largely following, in which Democrats get to sell austerity economics to their constituents and take the heat from the voters for implementing unpopular program cuts that Republican tax restrictions impose on the government. And at the California state level, the constitutional requirement for a balanced budget imposes much different restrictions than those that apply to the federal government.

Siders' report dimly implies that Jerry's commitment to the ACA is somehow a reversal of policy by writing this:

"We need to be able to control costs, period," the Democratic governor told reporters at a meeting of the National Governors Association. "And the federal government has the tendency to send out broad mandates and limit the state's authority, and then we have to come hat in hand and say, 'Please, let us manage this thing that you have thrust on us.'"

His remarks come a year after Brown lobbied federal officials unsuccessfully for authorization to enact certain cuts to Medi-Cal, part of the federal Medicaid program.

Brown is committed to expanding Medi-Cal coverage under the federal health care overhaul. He has warned previously that full funding for the program may be vulnerable due to federal deficit talks, though the Obama administration signaled recently it will protect Medicaid funding.

Brown said California is a "willing and eager" partner in the health care overhaul, but he said, "we have to be able to manage the program, and since there are many unknowns going forward, we have to know that when costs grow in certain ways we have to be able to curb them with a broad authority unconstrained in the way the federal government likes to constrain states." [my emphasis]
I continue to be underwhelmed by Siders reporting on the Brown Administration.

Siders reports in Jerry Brown's Ouija board 'not operative' in Washington Sacramento Bee 02/23/2013 on Jerry fielding airhead questions from a Politico reporter, Jonathan Martin. There's also a YouTube video of part of the interview, Jerry Brown In DC 02/23/2013:

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